Sunday December 16, 2012
Young and ambitious Joseph sets his sights on Rio Olympics
IT’S unusual to see a 15-year-old boy walking around with a shotgun. But then, Joseph Lee Joon Kit is no ordinary boy.
Just a week ago, he shone in his first major tournament – the 2nd Asian Shotgun Championships in Patiala, India, when he finished seventh in the skeet event that was won by six-time world champion Al Rashidi Abdullah of Kuwait. Joseph scored 117 points for joint third spot but lost in the shootout.
He also competed in the Southeast Asian Championships (SEASA) at the Subang Shooting Range in June, where he won a silver in the team event. What’s special about him is the way he effortlessly handles the firearm – and himself – on the shooting range.
This boy is blessed with immense talent, indeed. If he continues to work hard and stays dedicated to the sport, he has a good chance of being the youngest Malaysian to feature in the skeet event at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio in 2016.
Young Joseph’s fascination with guns, bullets and pigeon clays began a year ago – after his father Datuk Wira James Y.W. Lee, an ardent shooting fan, encouraged him to give it a shot.
“I was afraid at first. I had this picture in my mind of my arm being blown up like in the movies when one misfires,” he said, bursting into laughter. “But I gave it a shot anyway. When I pulled the trigger for the first time, there was a huge impact on my shoulder and chest. It was painful, at first,” recalled Joseph.
“I went on to hit 15 of the 25 targets at the Subang Shooting Range. I was told that beginners usually can’t even hit three in their first attempt.
“I remember Uncle Samy (P. Murugesu @ Samy served at the range for 32 years as the clay target range officer), saying that I had potential. Others, including my dad, said I should give it a try. I did and there’s been no turning back.”
He’s now a real sharp-shooter. During training on Friday, Joseph coolly gunned down 24 out of 25 birds!: “Skeet shooting is all about eye-hand coordination and mental preparation. It’s tough but I enjoy hitting the targets that zip by at 90kph.”
Skeet shooting is an Olympic sport where shooters use shotguns to break clay disks that are automatically flung into the air from two fixed stations at high speed. The shooters have to hit a total of 25 targets from eight different angles. Joseph is fortunate that he has 1991 Manila SEA Games gold medallist Richard Cheong, 49, as his coach and mentor.
Despite their huge age gap, there was an instant chemistry between the two.
“We have a lot of things in common ... sometimes, we even watch movies together. I learnt the basics and theory of the game from him. He also taught me how to prepare mentally for the game. He may be much older but we’re on the same wavelength ... that’s cool,” he smiled.
The Form Three student of R.E.A.L International School in Shah Alam said that he had learned a lot of things in the short time that he had taken up the sport.
“The India trip (for the Asian Shotgun meet) was an experience I’ll never forget. I had to shoot under a different environment – the weather was cold. The culture, food and drinks were also different,” he said.
“I had to travel two hours by bus, and escorted by police, to the venue. I played against world and Asian champions. I also learnt that a lot of outside factors can contribute to your performance and that you must be quick to adapt.”
Joseph, who was the champion in the 800m, 1500m, 4x100m, 4x400m and cross country at the Sri KL Secondary School before switching to the international school, now faces another challenge – juggling studies and sport.
“I’ve always loved sports ... somehow I’m good at it. I’m really keen to do Sports Science in the future. For now, it’s a realy challenge trying to balance studies and sports.” said Joseph.
“I spend about three hours training at the range, but I guess nothing is impossible.”
Asked about his Olympic dream, the young shooter, who looks up to Middle Eastern star Al Rashidi as his role model, said: “I want to qualify for the Olympic Games. First though, I want to do well at the Commonwealth Games and other international tournaments. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now and that’s important, I guess.”
Richard views the emergence of Joseph as good for a sport that has been depending on old-timers for far too long.
“We still have shooters who won medals at the 1993 SEA Games in the national team. It’s good to see Joseph coming through the ranks. We need successors and he’s on the right track. We hope his exploits will encourage more youngsters to take up the sport,” said Richard, who also hopes that these aspiring youngsters will be given the chance to compete in major international tournaments regularly.
With the right focus and investment, do not be surprised if Joseph guns down the country’s first medal in skeet shooting at the Olympic Games.
And that’ll be an extraordinary feat indeed.